China holiday highlights

Conical peaks rise up and reflect in peaceful waters; here you could almost picture yourself as the subject in an intricate traditional Chinese painting. The River Li acts as the backdrop as this moment in time is captures’ waterfalls, bamboo thickets, deep dark caves and farmers tending their terraced rice paddies… a series of images sketched in your mind forever.

Beijing, formerly known as Peking, has served as China’s capital for over 800 years and is the country’s political, economic and cultural heart. The city is home to a wealth of the nation’s most iconic sights such as the snaking Great Wall of China, the vast Tian’anmen Square – a symbol of national pride with a dark past – and the grand Forbidden City, home to numerous Emperors of the Ming and Qing dynasties.

Stroll along Sanya Bay, the illuminating coconut trees lighting a corridor along the white sand, and visit the remarkable Terracotta Warriors on a tour of Xi’an – 8000 life-sized soldiers crafted by hand. Cruise past the limestone karsts of Guilin alongside fishermen on bamboo rafts, and glide down the Yangtze River, passing cascading rice terraces and water buffalos. The capital of Shaanxi Province and cradle of Chinese civilisation, Xi’an is foremost recognised as home to one of the most famous wonders of Chinese civilisation, the awe-inspiring Terracotta Warriors which date back to the 3rd Century BC.

During a stay in cosmopolitan Shanghai, wander around a blend of towering skyscrapers, French-style delis, up-scale boutiques and shoe shops galore. In Chengdu, you can take a tour of the Giant Panda Breeding and Research Centre, and later gather with friends at a traditional tea house, working your way through different flavoured brews. Shanghai is the essence of cosmopolitan China, from the elegant ‘Paris of the East’ to futuristic towering skyscrapers. China’s past, present and future feature in one amazing metropolis. The nation’s largest city has a huge influence on the modern culture of China. Despite this, Shanghai has its fair share of historic attractions including the exquisite Yuyuan Garden, the ancient water town of Zhujiajiao and the fascinating Shanghai Museum.

China: a land of mind-defying landscapes and captivating contrasts of old and new.

China key facts

Time difference

GMT +8 hours

Capital

Beijing

Currency

Yuan, a unit of the Renminbi currency

Flying time to destination

Beijing, 10 hours

Population

1,313,973,713

Language

Chinese, with a number of dialects including Mandarin and Cantonese.

Passport & visas

All tourist visas issued in the UK to British Citizens are now multipe entry 2 year validity regardless of your itinerary requirements. Fees apply and a standard and express service is available. Passports due to expire within 2 years will receive a shorter validity visa.

China good to know

Etiquette

An insight into China

Beijing

Bustling Beijing offers visitors not only and insight into the future, but also the past. It is a city with its roots deeply embedded in tradition, yet doesn’t let this hold it back. Within it’s boundaries you’ll find grandiose palaces, ornate temples, lush gardens and quaint Hutongs remain, yet you’ll also find towering skyscrapers, gigantic malls and plenty of technology.

Beijing’s major shopping street, Wangfujiung, is an essential stop on any visit. By day it is a veritable treasure trove of shops and malls, by night framed by a maze of side streets filled with tempting traditional food stalls. Beijing plays host to a breathtaking selection of restaurants, and traditional Beijing cuisine lends itself more to noodles than rice and is typified by the signature Peking Duck dish, a must on any visit to Beijing.

Most of Beijing’s most famous sights are ancient, with the Forbidden Palace, the Summer Palace and the Temple of Heaven being three of the best known. Just outside Beijing you’ll find the iconic Great Wall of China a magnificent feat of human endeavour. The fortified sections at Badaling and Mutianyu are within easy reach of Beijing and make for an unforgettable day out. If you’re looking for some of Beijing’s more contemporary architecture, the ‘Bird’s Nest’ stadium or in fact any of the venues in the Olympic park are well worth a photo stop.

A little further afield, reached via a four hour train or a short road journey, the compact city of Chengde’s principle attraction is the vast Imperial Summer Resort, a huge 590 hectare palatial garden bound by an imposing miniature ‘Great Wall’.

Shanghai

China’s past, present and future feature in one amazing metropolis. The nation’s largest city has a huge influence on the modern culture of China. Despite this, Shanghai has its fair share of historic attractions including the exquisite Yuyuan Garden, the ancient water town of Zhujiajiao and the fascinating Shanghai Museum. Ancient and modern Shanghai offers an eclectic contrasting mix of historic splendour and progressive modernism. With no central ancient sites to be discovered, it is very much a city to be enjoyed at your own leisurely pace.

To foreign colonialists, the Bund was regarded as the ‘Wall Street of the East’ where fortunes were quickly made and lost, as well as a centre of Shanghai’s commerce and consulates. Today it is a mesmerising collection of 52 differing building styles, from Gothic to Baroque, Romanesque to Renaissance, with many shops, bars and restaurants that are now flourishing in and around it.

Xi’an

Xi’an is known around the world as the home to one of the most famous wonders of Chinese civilisation, the awe-inspiring Terracotta Warriors which date back to the 3rd century BC. One of the Four Ancient Capitals of China, Xi’an was the nation’s principal city under the rule of a number of historical governments including the Xin and Tang Dynasties.

Modern day Xi’an still retains many legacies of its rich and colourful past, from the energetic pulse of the bustling Muslim Quarter with the imposing Great Mosque at its heart, to the intricate, colourful carvings that adorn the Drum and Bell Towers, two iconic cultural relics at the centre of Xi’an.

Xi’an would not be the city it is today without the long-standing influence of its Muslim Quarter. We recommend that any trip to the city includes a visit to this bustling area, home for many centuries to the Islamic Hui community. The magnificent Great Mosque is its focal point, from which expand hectic markets and narrow lanes and alleyways, populated by ancient homes, traditional shops and tiny workplaces.

Xi’an is a great city to shop for cultural items, particularly Chinese calligraphy rubbings, replica Terracotta Warriors, traditional Shaanxi paper cuttings and silk clothing. The real joy is to be found in the Muslim Quarter, home to a large number of outdoor markets and antique and curio shops. Be prepared to haggle!

Yangtze

Stretching 3964 miles from the Tibetan Plateau down to Shanghai where it flows into the East China Sea, the Yangtze River has long been used for water, irrigation, industry, transportation, a boundary between warring regions and the inspiration for many poets and artists. The spectacular natural scenery between the cities of Chongqing and Yichang can be enjoyed on a cruise which makes its way through the majestic Three Gorges – Qutang, Wu and Xiling.

Chengdu

The home of giant pandas and a plethora of natural riches, affluent Chengdu still retains much of its historic charm. Known as the ‘land of plenty’, Chengdu’s deep-rooted culture and contrasting landscapes prove just as much an attraction as Sichuan’s most famous inhabitant, the panda. Enjoy meeting these lovable animals up close, and discovering this laid back city.

Sichuan is the historical centre of China’s tea drinking culture, said to date back over 3000 years. While their role as the centre of local society is long gone, tea houses remain popular places to gather with friends and colleagues. Slowly make your way through a dazzling array of different flavours from the menu and, if chance permits, the intricate process of brewing, straining and serving the tea is an enjoyably educating sight and experience not to be missed.

Guilin

The modern town of Guilin is an oasis of colour with lush gardens, colourful flowerbeds and osmnathus trees lining the streets. However the main attraction of Guilin is really the stunning scenery that surrounds it. Famous for its majestic limestone karts and crystal clear waters, the natural beauty found along the Li River make it an essential part of any visit to China. If you’re lucky you may also see a fisherman using cormorants to fish, however this is a relatively rare sighting so keep your eyes peeled!

Tibet

The Tibetan plateau has for centuries been the home of nomadic farmers, while now the slopes of the Himalayas attract climbers and adventure travellers from all over the world. Tibet is a land rich in history and natural beauty, with a unique culture that has remained almost unchanged over centuries, albeit with the addition of a few modern technologies.

When thinking of modern Tibet it is hard to separate it from politics, with the controversial incorporation of Tibet into China in the 1950s and the consequential struggle of the Tibetan people. This can make travel into Tibet difficult and on occasion and without notice the Chinese government may stop issuing permits to travellers. However our ground handlers in China (part of Kuoni group) are best placed to ensure the smooth running of any itinerary featuring Tibet.